The Equipper Newsletter -- October 4, 2006
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How To Delegate
I've never once heard anyone say they enjoy delegating. I've also never heard anyone say they are good at it. Delegation is most often treated as if it were a terrible disease--something to avoid because it ruins your life.
Delegating is difficult, but need not be disastrous. A skill that improves with practice, delegating is one way--the only good way--of giving work to someone else.
Delegating involves a balance between letting go and remaining in charge. If either half is missing, you end up with something unpleasant that definitely is not delegating, thought it might be so called.
Delegating is not dumping. It is not delegating when you, literally or figuratively, take a task or a responsibility and dump on someone with a "Here. Now it's yours" and walk away. It feels like relief to the dumper, but is rarely appreciated by the dumpee, and why it rarely results in more work getting done better.
Delegating is not directing. It is not delegating when you, literally or figuratively, continually stand over the shoulder of the person to whom you've given a task, with "Now do this; then this. No, not that way!" and never walk away. Again, few of us appreciate continual, detailed direction, and it shows in the results.
How to Delegate
- Carefully choose the person to delegate to. Don't choose the nearest body with a pulse or the person least likely to decline. Select a person with the ability to do the job well, though perhaps in an entirely different way than you would.
- In your discussion with the person, agree on the end result desired. How will we measure success? Notice the emphasis on the result, not the process. Allow as much freedom as possible to let the person achieve the result in their own way.
- Agree on the amount of control you retain. This step is key to success or failure. Do you want them to run each step by you before they initiate it? Or check in with you by phone once a week? Or take the ball and run with it, checking in only if they have a problem? The better you know the person and their record, the more autonomy you can give them. If you don't have that experience with the person, more frequent checking in will be good for both of you. Set up a follow-up plan that you both are comfortable with.
- Give the person what they need to do the job well-information, tools, access to equipment, other resources, answers to their questions, periodic affirmation, etc. Set them up for success.
- Stick to your follow-up plan. A good plan is only as effective as its follow through. Don't get distracted by other things.
Why we don't like delegating
- Delegating is hard work and it takes time. It involves risk. Sometimes people will let you down. You can count on it.
- Delegating is rarely rewarded. If you do something yourself, you're congratulated for what you achieve. If you delegate well to a half dozen people, and thereby accomplish 10 times what you could on your own, it looks like you 'haven't done anything.'
- Delegation might even be punished. If your supervisor sees that you've delegated some responsibility to others, s/he may decide you've got too much free time and do some dumping on you.
- The person we delegate to might do the job better than we would. Our own insecurities make it hard to delegate, unless we take those insecurities to the One who created us with our individual skills and whose love is never conditional on our accomplishments.
So why delegate?
- God gave each of us different skills. When delegating is done well, work is more likely done by the person best suited to do it, and God's work is done more effectively. See Exodus 31:1-6.
- When staff, or a few leaders, are 'doers' rather than delegaters, the rest of God's people are locked out of using their gifts in the church. The body of Christ limps along using only a few of the parts of its body (I Cor 12).
- Delegating builds relationships. We are the 'communion of saints,' God's people working together, not a bunch of Lone Rangers.
- Delegating has long term repercussions. When you delegate well to someone, that person grows in their skills and confidence in ways that affect the rest of their life. God's kingdom may well benefit in ways you'll never see.
Delegating is an important tool for those who want to help others serve Jesus. It may take some effort, but find people who are delegating and who are doing it well. Honor them and lift them up as models. And learn from them.
Got a comment or a question about this topic? Click here to go to the article on the website and scroll to the end. Then contribute your thoughts by posting a comment.
Resources on Delegating
- Training Staff to Succeed With Volunteers by Betty Stallings; an electronic book available for $35.00 at Energize, Inc. Delegating is one of the 10 topics taught in concise, 55-minute sessions.
- Delegation tips are given on two websites: Get More Done and Zeromillion, a site for entrepreneurs.
The Equipper Newsletter
Published by Karen Kogler
Helping People Serve Jesus
To subscribe or unsubscribe, email Karen@theequipper.org.